Oct 18, 2012

Four School Boards Ignore Lawmakers and Maintain Policy to Let Go of Good Teachers

BATON ROUGE, La. - State Superintendent of Education John White today applauded the leadership of 66 school boards - 94 percent of the state’s school districts - for adopting policies that will protect the jobs of great teachers in the event of a layoff. Four school boards - St. Bernard, St. Martin, St. Tammany and Vermilion - refused to end seniority-based layoffs for teachers and principals. Act 1 of the 2012 Regular Legislative Session required layoffs to be based solely on demand, performance and effectiveness. Lawmakers explicitly prohibited the use of seniority or tenure as the primary criteria in layoff decisions of teachers and principals.

"Parents and students know that a strong teacher can be the difference between learning and struggling for our young people," said White. "Most districts have taken a huge step forward to protect our best in the unfortunate event of layoffs. Those who continue to ignore a teacher’s effectiveness in their policies put their students’ futures at risk."

For nearly 30 years, Louisiana school districts made decisions about compensation, retention and layoffs based primarily on seniority. Superintendents and principals were powerless to make these decisions. As a result, newer teachers - no matter how effective - were paid the lowest and were the first to be let go when a reduction in force is necessary.

Under Act 1, September 1, 2012 was the deadline for school boards to replace "last in, first out" layoff policies with a policy that bases layoff decisions on performance, not seniority. The law requires retention decisions and salary increases to be based on an annual evaluation of educators that incorporates student learning data and classroom observations. Additionally, the law allows Superintendents to make decisions about personnel, providing them with the tools they need to build a team dedicated to the success of each and every student.

Four districts explicitly use seniority as secondary criteria in their reduction-in-force policies. To differentiate between teachers within the same category of effectiveness, school districts can use the numerical rating, which is provided down to the hundredths percent, and performance evaluations by principles for teachers. Districts out of compliance with the law risk not only the academic welfare of students but also the threat of lawsuit from wrongfully laid off, effective teachers.

"I agree with the reduction in force policy because I don’t believe that one’s years of service should outweigh the quality of one’s work. Our highly effective educators, regardless of experience, do a proficient job daily and would not be offended by a  RIF policy based on fair and unbiased evaluation," said Connie Vansant, an English Language Arts teacher in Jefferson Parish.

To support local school boards and superintendents in developing new reduction in force policies around Act 1, the Department published a memorandum detailing changes required by the law along with sample language and communication guidance.  The Department encouraged districts to submit their policies for further support and worked directly with many to ensure those teachers who most positively impact their students can keep doing their jobs, regardless of time served or status, in full compliance with Act 1 of the 2012 Regular Legislative Session.  All 70 districts submitted their policies to the Department for review and the Department provided feedback as districts worked to align their draft policies with the requirements of Act 1.

The Department’s Network Teams will continue to work with school districts to strengthen their policies on retention and compensation.

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